The Lighthouse

poem by Karyn Savage , illustrated by Peter Sheehan

Learning Intention:

I am learning to examine the use of figurative language to create a mood so that I can experiment with using figurative language.


Success Criteria:

  • I can identify examples of figurative language, both personification and metaphor.
  • I can experiment with using figurative language.
  • I can use figurative language when composing a poem.


Essential knowledge:


Discuss the following terms with students and ensure they understand their meanings. Refer to the NSW Syllabus Glossary for definitions, such as:

Figurative language


From the NSW Syllabus Glossary:

Words or phrases used in a way that differs from the expected or everyday usage. Figurative language creates comparisons by linking the senses and the concrete to abstract ideas. Words or phrases are used in a non-literal way for particular effect, for example simile, metaphor, personification. Figurative language may also use elements of other senses, as in hearing with onomatopoeia, or in combination as in synaesthesia.

Personification: Attributing humanistic characteristics to inanimate objects


Discuss the meaning of the term ‘metaphor’ further and ensure students understand that a metaphor is when resemblances between two things are used to profess that one thing is another.


Discuss common purposes of poetry and note examples on the board, for example:


  • To entertain
  • To make the mundane lyrical
  • To provide a fresh perspective




Display the following versions of the first stanza of The Lighthouse, with all the figurative language replaced with literal language:

The lighthouse is on top of the grey cliffs,

It’s been damaged by the salt sea spray,

It shows sailors where the land begins,

By being lit at night.


Display the first stanza of the original poem, The Lighthouse:


Standing proud above cliff tops grey,

Weathered from storms and salt sea spray,

My hope and compass of the sea,
Beacon of light please call to me.


Ensure students note that the stanzas are referring to a lighthouse. Refer back to the list of purposes of poetry and discuss which version of the stanza best meets the purposes. Most likely students will conclude the original version does as it is more lyrical, more descriptive and as it provides a fresh perspective.

Focus on the first stanza from the original poem. Discuss examples of figurative language and identify which type of figurative language each example is. For example:

  • Standing proud above cliff tops grey (Personification, as lighthouses cannot express a human emotion of pride)
  • My hope and compass of the sea (Metaphor, comparing the lighthouse to the author’s hope and their compass)
  • Beacon of light (Metaphor, comparing the lighthouse to a beacon of light)

Continue to focus on the first stanza of the original poem and discuss the following:

  • What is the mood evoked? (Hopeful, admiring of the lighthouse)
  • How does figurative language help create the mood? (It evokes the mood by describing it in a way that readers can visualise and imagine)


Understanding text:

Place students with a partner and instruct them to read the remainder of The Lighthouse. Tell students to identify further examples of figurative language and instruct them to strive to note which type of figurative language each example is. Sample responses have been provided on a table.

Personification Metaphor
  • paint stripped bare
  • light burn free
  • Decades fly
  • Who you are and were made to be
  • Stand your ground (and can also be a metaphor)



  •  Guardian of the ships at sea






Creating text:


Inform students that they will be composing their own examples of figurative language. To do this, begin by discussing objects or elements of nature students are familiar with, for example:

  • A car
  • A cat
  • A torch
  • A doll
  • The sunrise
  • Trees
  • Wind
  • Rain

Provide students with small pieces of paper and instruct them to jot ideas on the paper. Provide a box or bag at the front of the class and instruct students to fold their slips of paper before placing them inside the box.

Select two pieces at random and discuss how the two items might be connected in a metaphor, for example:

  • A car and a torch: The car’s path, a beam of light from a torch, never wavering on its path.
  • A doll and the wind: The doll is snatched by a gust of wind in child form and taken on an adventure.
  • The rain and a cat: The cat is the rain that streams through an open window, both intruders to a home.

Place students with a partner. Tell students to select slips of paper with objects written on them from the hat at random. Set a timer for one minute and instruct students to discuss with their partner how the two items they have been selected might be compared to one and other before creating a metaphor.

Discuss how one of the items students selected might be used to create an example of personification by attributing it with human features. Collaboratively compose examples, such as:

  • The car purrs happily
  • The torch flashed on and off in protest
  • The doll watched on sadly
  • The wind whipped angrily

Allow time for students to compose their own examples of personification before sharing responses.

Select examples of metaphors and personification and collaboratively construct a brief poem about one of the items. For example:


The car carved out a straight path,

Its headlights, beams of light from a torch,

Happily purring,

As it pottered along


Refer to The Lighthouse to identify the rhyming scheme (couplets). Discuss how the poem might be edited to rhyme but inform students that making their poem rhyme is not essential. Edit the poem collaboratively, for example:


The car carved out a straight path,

Like firelight in the hearth,

Happily purring,

As it was whirring.


Tell students to work with the same partner as previously to compose their own poems. Remind students to use the metaphors and the examples of personification they composed when writing their poems. Tell students that they may choose to make their poems rhyme or not.


Assessment for/as learning:


Instruct students to respond to the following exit ticket questions in their workbooks:

  • What is a Metaphor? (When resemblances are drawn between two things to profess that one thing is another)
  • What is Personification? (Ascribing human traits to inanimate objects)
  • What impact does using personification and metaphors have on poems? (They help create the mood and to evoke feelings)